22 & 23

Animation Magazine - - Frame- By- Frame -

9Dis­cover next-level strate­gies at Car­toon Busi­ness in Belfast or take in sun and screen­ings at San­ti­ago’s Chile­monos an­i­ma­tion fes­ti­val. [car­toon-me­dia.eu | chile­monos.com] Ri­d­ley Scott’s hatches in the­aters.

Can’t-miss events now open: An­imex Int’l Fes­ti­val of An­i­ma­tion & Com­puter Games (Mid­dles­brough, U.K.), Broad­cast Asia (Sin­ga­pore), Dig­i­tal Hol­ly­wood — Spring (L.A.), Li­cens­ing Expo (Las Ve­gas) and MIP China (Hangzhou). [an­imex.tees.ac.uk | broad­cast-asia.com | dig­i­tal­hol­ly­wood.com | li­censing­expo.com | mip-china.com]

Many com­pa­nies as­pire to be­come global an­i­ma­tion stu­dios, pro­duc­ing work with a va­ri­ety of tech­niques for di­verse au­di­ences on mul­ti­ple plat­forms. But few have been as steadily suc­cess­ful in build­ing such a busi­ness from scratch as Paris-based Cy­ber Group Stu­dios, which 12 years from its found­ing has opened an of­fice in Hol­ly­wood and im­ple­mented care­fully weighed plans to grow in every way it can.

And with at least eight shows in pro­duc­tion — among them Zou, Mirette In­ves­ti­gates, The Pi­rates Next Door, Gi­gan­tosaurus, Sadie Sparks, Taffy, Tom Sawyer, Mini-Nin­jas and a hand­ful of shows in de­vel­op­ment — Cy­ber Group’s plan is so far, so good.

Speak­ing re­cently from Paris, co-founder, chair­man and CEO Pierre Siss­mann out­lined his three-pronged strat­egy for grow­ing the com­pany: In­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion, artis­tic de­vel­op­ment and in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity.

In­ter­na­tional Ex­pan­sion Siss­mann says the com­pany has spent the last five to seven years so­lid­i­fy­ing its in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion ca­pac­i­ties and de­vel­op­ing prop­er­ties that would ap­peal to all con­ti­nents.

The next step comes with es­tab­lish­ing sub­sidiaries that are on the ground in ma­jor mar­kets. Cy­ber Group’s first sub­sidiary opened at the start of 2017 in Los An­ge­les, headed up by Richard Gold­smith, for­merly a high-rank­ing ex­ec­u­tive at The Jim Hen­son Co. and Warner Bros. En­ter­tain­ment.

Siss­mann sees an im­por­tant ad­van­tage in hav­ing a per­ma­nent pres­ence in a mar­ket over con­stant travel or telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions from a sin­gle base.

“It was ob­vi­ous for us that we had to be in the U.S.,” he says. “When you look at what we in­tend to do the next cou­ple of years, I would say we need to be es­tab­lish­ing strong bases on other con­ti­nents, to go from a French player to an in­ter­na­tional player to be­com­ing a global player to be­com­ing a re­gional player as well.”

That kind of pres­ence does sev­eral things, Siss­mann says: It en­ables the com­pany to bet­ter un­der­stand its clients, as well as global and re­gional mar­kets. It also will help the com­pany lo­cate the cre­ative tal­ent needed to serve those mar­kets.

He cites as an ex­am­ple a co-pro­duc­tion Cy-

made to aim Digby at an older de­mo­graphic than originally planned (4- to 6-year-olds as op­posed to 3-year-olds). “If you start at 3, you can never go up,” Hy­att says. “If you start at 5, you can go down.”

Vis­ually this in­volved re­design­ing the char­ac­ters to look a lit­tle less cute and ro­tund than those ini­tially con­ceived by Hunter, and chang­ing the color pal­ette from pas­tels to earthy hues. Sto­ry­wise, the writ­ing was also re­worked to make it more “as­pi­ra­tional” for preschool­ers, says se­ries pro­ducer and di­rec­tor Adam Shaw: “It was re­ally work­ing on the char­ac­ter dy­nam­ics to in­crease the amount of drama and peril but also to in­crease the com­edy and the char­ac­ter in­ter­ac­tion.”

But it was the show’s unique vis­ual style that proved a main sell­ing point, with at­ten­dees at last year’s Brand Li­cens­ing Europe even en­quir­ing if Digby was a fea­ture rather than a tele­vi­sion se­ries.

“It hasn’t got the shiny, flat CG feel of so many shows,” says Hy­att. Part of that is down to the stop-frame feel of the an­i­ma­tion, which was achieved by elim­i­nat­ing soft move­ment in be­tween key poses.

“That was a style de­ci­sion I made right at the very be­gin­ning,” says Shaw. “We wanted the show to have more of a hand-crafted and tex­tu­ral feel.”

While ini­tially that might have seemed like a time-saver, in re­al­ity it threw up a se­ries of tech­ni­cal challenges the team had to over­come.

“Things like cam­era moves sud­denly be- came an is­sue,” says an­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor Matt Tea. “Be­cause char­ac­ters are mov­ing every other frame so, if you had a fluid cam­era, the char­ac­ters would al­most kind of jit­ter across screen space.”

Craft­ing Every Frame In­stead of re­ly­ing on key frames and break­downs, the an­i­ma­tors ended up hav­ing to con­struct al­most every in­di­vid­ual key frame.

“Every sin­gle frame was pretty much crafted to be a spe­cific frame that we needed,” Tea says. “So in that sense, what we thought would be an eas­ier approach be­cause there would be fewer frames to an­i­mate ac­tu­ally proved to be more work.”

But for Shaw, the hy­brid-style an­i­ma­tion, which he felt com­ple­mented the “hand-painted and hand-crafted en­vi­ron­ments and char­ac­ters,” was in­te­gral to vis­ually com­mu­ni­cat­ing the show’s themes of na­ture and the beauty of the nat­u­ral world, as well as pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate his team’s skill.

“There’s a slightly dif­fer­ent approach in be­ing able to fully tell their story in their key poses and not re­ly­ing upon any short­cuts you can make through blend­ing and in-be­tweens,” Shaw says. “It re­ally puts the em­pha­sis on pos­ing and tim­ing, which is what an­i­ma­tion should be all about.” [

Blue-Zoo achieves a hand-crafted look in CG that evokes the charm of stop-mo­tion for Digby Dragon.

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